Officer mistakes crucifix for a gun, kills 73-year-old

December 14, 2016

Francisco Serna

After a 73-year-old man with dementia failed to follow a Bakersfield police officer’s orders, the officer shot and killed the unarmed man.

On Monday, seven officers responded to reports of a man with a revolver who was acting strangely after Francisco Serna, 73, asked a woman where she lived. The woman mistook the end of Serna’s dark-colored crucifix for the handle of a gun and asked a friend to report the encounter.

Officers arrived and ordered Serna to take his hands out of his pockets and to stop walking, but Serna failed to comply with their demands. Officer Reagan Selman then fired at least seven shots at Serna, who died at the scene.

While only Selman fired a gun, Bakersfield police officials have placed seven officers on administrative leave while they investigate the shooting.







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30 Comments

  1. Lilylu says:

    This is tragic!!! This man did not have to die. Dementia/mental illness/hearing impaired/autism/ etc. etc. etc. There are many reasons a person does not follow a police officers orders immediately. That does not mean LEO’s have a right to immediately shoot him 7 times. Other alternatives should have been attempted first. To the family of Mr. Serna, many condolences for your loss. Your loved one did not deserve to be gunned down in the street. It appears more and more police officers think we live in a police state. We do not. Law enforcement exists to serve and protect. I understand they put their own life on the line daily but if they have a mentality of shoot to kill first and ask questions later they should not have picked law enforcement as their career choice.

    (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
  2. CentralcoastRN says:

    When you are in charge of making life and death decisions, I think more than POST officer training is needed.

    It is just heartbreaking.

    (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
  3. Downtown Bob says:

    The man refused to follow instructions, he had an object that resembled a dangerous weapon, and the officer decided that the threat to his life based upon what he knew required him to use deadly force to stop the threat. That means shooting until the perceived threat is stopped. Sadly, that is what happened from what seems to be reported. That is all we know. BTW because you’re a convict that abused and used people for 40 years means that your opinion is not worth anything in my book.

    (-8) 20 Total Votes - 6 up - 14 down
    • Pete says:

      You make a reference to someone without any reason, who are you talking about? The cop, the victim? Read your post and see if it makes any sense.
      And by the way a ‘perception’ of danger’ must be far below that allowable to kill civilians. And a refusal to follow orders is what freedom is all about, we don’t have to do everything every two bit cop tells us to do. A good friend of mine shares your attitude and makes me wonder about his sanity, I hope he is pushed around by a cop sometime and can feel the bite of unjust abuse.

      So you are walking along, listening to tunes with your ear buds, holding a walking stick. Some idiot calls the cops ’cause they think you are ‘out of it’. The cops approach you from behind and demand you stop. You don’t hear or can’t believe this is happening so you don’t exactly follow their ‘instructions’. But you turn around slightly, holding your walking stick. The fucking pigs kill you as a ‘perceived threat’. How do you like that?

      Cops are supposed to be trained and capable to handle situations without letting them get out of control, perhaps even retreating instead of killing. This older gentleman doesn’t seem like any threat to me, I hope we get more info to help us sort this out.

      Like another person pointed out, if cops can’t ‘serve and protect’ without violating all decent sense and manners they should not sign up.

      QUESTION AUTHORITY!

      (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
    • L.A.RamsFan says:

      Your book is old and outdated…

      I said I was inside for 20 years, a place where I couldn’t “abuse and use people” and another 20 years out here in your world doing the right things (including being a mid-level manager responsible for tens of thousand of dollars every day with a Fortune 500 company you’ve probably dealt with on occassions) and I still don’t have a say so or an opinion worth a shit to folks like you. That’s what I said but just like those who condone and justify ANY cop shooting you only hear (and read in this case) what you want and run with it. Good for you, at least I know exactly where I stand with you and can say with all honesty… I don’t care what you think of me or my opinion and because of you I will continue to voice it here.

      Folks like you motivate me even further to speak out, something that folks like you are completely incessant on stopping. Too bad, it’s ain’t gonna happen with me…

      I could walk into a room that you and others like you occupy, I could walk amongst y’all, I could chit-chat with you on business or world affairs and you wouldn’t have a clue about my past. I’ve been doing it for years now with folks just like you and have been accepted but I open up my mouth about my past your type of hypocrisy tries EVERYTIME to shut me up.

      I have an anniversery coming up here in the next few days, on the 23rd of this month I’ve been crime free for 20 years. I have been an active positive force in my work place, in my community and with my family. I have had contact with any LEA once, ONCE, a speeding ticket in Georgia that I paid for that day (in some parts of the south you can actually have an LEO lead you to the court house after issuing a citation and pay the fine right then, kinda cool). I say this to ask this Bob; when do I have to stop doing time for folks like you? When is enough enough? Isn’t the punishment handed down by the court, a sentence I have already completed, enough? What do I have to do to be a part of the community I participate in, pay taxes to and live in? Be honest Bob, when?!

      Merry Christmas to You and Yours Bob…

      (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
  4. ShootTheMessenger says:

    Under California’s mandatory fair diversity hiring act of 1982, officer Selman,a registered vampire, was hired by the BPD.

    He was merely protecting himself.

    (-7) 15 Total Votes - 4 up - 11 down
  5. billygatez says:

    A california State Ranger requires a bachelors degree in most cases. Classes in psychology, sociology etc. A CA police officer requires 6 months academy; nothing more. A military graduate has far more training than a cop, dealing with confrontation and peaceful resolution. Cops in CA are severely undertrained, and overpaid. Hiring a 20 something year old expecting them to do a job of what should be a calm educated adult is a joke. Then to compensate them with a salary of 70k a year is more of an insult, 401k etc; do you think veterans receive that treatment? I think not. This is not an isolated incident here in CA, or anywhere, dating back at least 50 years.

    (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
  6. pasoparent5 says:

    Seven armed officers versus one unarmed senior citizen…so why couldn’t a non-lethal weapon be used in situations like this? Pellets? Bean bags? Not sure how that works–maybe an LEO out there could please clarify…

    (32) 48 Total Votes - 40 up - 8 down
    • Rambunctious says:

      Because they thought he had a gun, would you use a taser or a bean bag on a man with a gun? I wouldn’t. And no one ever said that cops have to go one on one with suspects. They always try and outnumber the perp. As tragic as this was I’m not sure what else could have been done. Of course I wasn’t there but that is how the story reads to me.

      (-9) 39 Total Votes - 15 up - 24 down
      • billygatez says:

        A million other conflict resolution efforts; that they train for.

        (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
      • non_sequitur says:

        “…I’m not sure what else could have been done.” Are you kidding? How about not shooting an unarmed senior citizen SEVEN times? Cops and their apologists are out of control.

        (13) 43 Total Votes - 28 up - 15 down
        • Rambunctious says:

          As far as the police were concerned he was armed.

          (-2) 14 Total Votes - 6 up - 8 down
        • Rambunctious says:

          Non sequitur….You totally ignored all of my post but one sentence…lol talk about a non sequitur. lol The police were told he had a gun for them to not believe it would have been very stupid. 7 shots yes but you do not know how many hit their target. And old men can kill too.

          (-5) 17 Total Votes - 6 up - 11 down
      • L.A.RamsFan says:

        The “perp”?!!! Nah, you didn’t just say that, right? I gotta laugh! Not only does that show a wanna-be attitude it also shows your obvious prejudice… Keep it “dirt bag” that way you’re speaking to all of us, okay?

        (5) 13 Total Votes - 9 up - 4 down
  7. L.A.RamsFan says:

    Bakersfield! Well, no suprise here what-so-ever considering Kern County leads the country in cop-on-suspect shootings. I guess they were just paddin’ their lead…

    (12) 36 Total Votes - 24 up - 12 down
  8. TaxMeAgain says:

    Differentiation between mental illness and a threat to others is important. Police should be trained in this and they should be good at it.

    What went wrong here? Fear, bad reporting, and police overaction. I get that he was not following commands, but with seven officers on site, I wonder how many commands? I also understand that protection of our officers is paramount and I appreciate the delicate nature of this. However, lethal force can be used to disable and NOT kill a person.

    To his family, I’m sorry for your loss.

    (24) 34 Total Votes - 29 up - 5 down
    • pasoparent5 says:

      Well said. As for the victim’s family–I’m sure a lawsuit will be filed, and rightfully so.

      (18) 26 Total Votes - 22 up - 4 down
      • kayaknut says:

        You are probably right about the lawsuit. The problem is the payout will come from the taxpayers instead of the police department’s budget, until lawsuit payouts comes from the budgets of those agency’s that get sued those agencies have no incentive to correct problems and fire those that need it.

        (13) 23 Total Votes - 18 up - 5 down
    • L.A.RamsFan says:

      I agree with you, but I’m afraid the sound reasoning behind your correct assertion that some sort of training to better evalute people they contact in situations like this just falls on deaf ears. Besides, most LEA’s provide this type of training already, right?

      It’s called, in most cases, “Sensitivity Training” and in Bakersfield it’s termed as “Diversity Training”. The challenge in this type of training, in my opinion, there has to first be a willingness to listen and learn and a pre-exsiting overwhelming feeling of respect for the community you are so suppose to be serving. Some, not all, LEO’s do not have these qaulities and are resistant to anything that may magnify this fact and make it clear they need to listen and learn. Some cops are there for one purpose and one purpose only, to fulfill there need to be in control. You can’t just put a bagde on some persons chest and think his or her personal issues are just gonna disappear with the shield? Nope, more often then not it exacerbates those issues and then manifests itself in situations like this.

      And as far as the “overwhelming force” police usually use in cases like this, well, that’s a two-edged sword that can be used for good or for bad. I was in a situation years ago where law enforcement broke through a door where my crime partner and myself were hiding, my crime partner was shot. The reason he was shot (other than the fact we were committing a crime) was because of the confussion caused by over ten LEO’s yelling at us to do completely different things. One was saying “Lay The F*** Down” while another was screaming “Put your F***ing Hands On Your Head” and still another yelling “Don’t F***ing Move” My partner went to put up his hands and was shot in the stomache. In court, and on the report, the reason given for his being shot was he did not lay down when commanded to. I’m not sayin’ that LE does this on purpose but it does make one wonder. Oh, by-the-way, we weren’t carrying at the time.

      LEO’s are trained to shoot at the “center body mass” as not to miss because of aiming for a smaller target such as a leg or arm, and, the stopping power of a gunshot to that part of the body is, well, self explanitory… The right thing to do? I’d guess that depends on if you’re the general public who doesn’t want to be hit by a missed shot directed at an arm or leg, or an LEO who wants that person incompasitated to the point of no movement at all or the person geting shot.

      A better, more refined and longer vetting effort should be done before hiring someone into LE, it would benefit everyone.

      (4) 22 Total Votes - 13 up - 9 down
  9. r0y says:

    OK, I get that one should follow direct orders of LEO’s… but SEVEN (7!) shots fired because he was walking with his hands in his pockets? Was he walking aggressively TOWARDS the officer(s)? Seven just seems… panicked or lack of control / training. I get it, put a dirt-bag down when needed, but it’s that split-second (or several-second) decision that we pay the cops the big bucks to truly evaluate.

    (28) 38 Total Votes - 33 up - 5 down
    • L.A.RamsFan says:

      Are you saying this gentleman was a “dirt bag” or are you implying that anyone who has contact with LEO’s is a “dirt bag” first and then maybe just a person who can’t comprehend what the LEO is saying because of a medical condition?

      As a “dirt bag” alumni I can say with some certainty this guy by appearance just doesn’t fit the bill. But then again he was Hispanic, the true first litmus test of “dirt bag” status here in “The Happiest Place on Earth”, right? Maybe the family should feel some comfort in knowing not all of the LEO’s on scene opened up on him.

      Wait a minute, wait a minute! I just got word through the “dirt bag” network that the cross he was carring had a pistol grip on it and a dead guy hangin’ from it! He’s lucky he only got seven injections of lead…

      (-21) 37 Total Votes - 8 up - 29 down
      • Rawhide says:

        Your response to what rOy posted / said / is completely misconceived…

        (12) 16 Total Votes - 14 up - 2 down
        • L.A.RamsFan says:

          Really?! My conception is based on the fact he chose to use “dirt bag” in any context in his post. A term I’ll remind you that is usually reserved for a “criminal” but now seems is used to describe anyone, especially those of color, who comes into contact with LE for any reason. I’ll stick to the notion that a person is first a person when arrested or confronted by LE and considered innocent until proven guilty and only though due process does he or she become a “dirt bag”.

          I’l be here all week…

          (-9) 23 Total Votes - 7 up - 16 down
          • Pete says:

            Right on Ramsfan, too much prejudgement going on all the time. And the way I see it many of our cops are wimps who whine about ‘danger’ when they have overwhelming force on their side and no reason to shoot in many cases.
            I grieve over our lost cops but the misbalance in all this is ghastly. If a cop is killed the whole country turns out, if a cop kills a citizen the victim is often labeled a dirtbag and the cop gets off with a reprimand or paid leave, on us.

            Only in the most outrageous cases are the cops held accountable, this has been going on for eons and must stop. The cops should actually be held to a higher standard than the riff raff at the bottom, same with politicians caught with their hand in the cookie jar-but of course in both cases that is only a pipe dream. We have two systems of ‘justice’ in this country; a severe one for ‘us’ and another very lenient one for those sworn to serve and protect. Shitty set up.

            (3) 19 Total Votes - 11 up - 8 down
            • Rambunctious says:

              7 shots sounds ridiculous until you put yourself in the situation. 7 shots were fired but I’ve read no report on how many shots found their target. I wasn’t there but I find it hard to believe the officer stood over a dead man and kept on firing.

              Did the officer shoot too quickly? Did he over react? was he scared for his life? was he a bit on edge with all of the cold blooded police killings in the nation lately?

              You bet all of the above…I’d like to see some of you arm chair patrolmen in this situation to see how you would have responded.

              I would bet the man would still be dead, even if LARamsFan were the officer on the scene.

              It’s easy to sit at home and judge. There is not a cop out there that doesn’t want to go home to their family each and every day.

              (-1) 17 Total Votes - 8 up - 9 down
              • L.A.RamsFan says:

                You don’t know me; you don’t have a clue what I would or wouldn’t have done, you just show the a-typical attitude that keeps most folks like me silent… “Hell, you’re an ex-con and I know you wouldn’t have acted any different”! In other words… Shut the f*** up! Sorry, you’ll not get me to play along as I’ve heard it enough and have become impervious to it.

                Right now I’m actually laughin’ my ass off! I can hardly stay in my frickin’ chair. You know why? Two reasons there rOy: I was just compared to a cop, how f****in’ poetic is that?! And then you actually said that because I, as a criminal, couldn’t and or wouldn’t show less restrain it somehow justifies a “good guy” not doing so. I’m a criminal (retired, out-of-business, livin’ the good life, not plannin’ on re-uppin’ either) I’m not suppose to react with any sensibility or concern about my fellow man, a cop is! I can tell you this though: I have found out in these past few years the absolute joy I have found in understanding that runnin’ from some idiot that means me harm is far better for EVERYONE, especially me, than me beatin’ his poor dumb ass, and, that it takes “a pair” far larger to do so than the two I used to sport, sport!

                That gentlemen was probably pass the point in his dementia of actually having a feeling of wanting to just go home, his actions or the lack thereof probably proves this out. Instead he has to rely on others to insure he gets there and the one person who could have assured he got home and is expected to do so by the whole “Protect and Serve” BS? Shot and killed him instead!

                I’m tired of the tired ass argument of the dangers our LOE’s face when something happens like this, that’s part of their frickin’ job! It should be pretty self evident when one of the first things you’re given as a cop and required to carry with you 24/7/365 is a frickin’ gun! Can’t deal with that? Don’t sign up! Can’t deal with the fact that you may die as a result of your “DUTIES” then DON’T SIGN UP! It’s the same resonating reasoning y’all use on folks like me, right? Don’t like prison? Well then dont’ sign up!

                I don’t sit at home and judge from some no experience out of ignorance position, I can’t! I’ve been there and done that Mr rOy, it’s a part of me and I feel a sense of duty to call out this kind of shit as it is. After doing almost 20 years inside and then almost 20 years out I am still not afforded the chance to speak on a level playing field with the likes of you, even in an area I have been an intimate part of most of my life. I’m not here speaking for Mr. Serna, no, I’m here speakin’ up! My right in accordance with CNN’s policies.

                No worries though, the only witness in this case that has the honor of being an “Officer of the Court” and is almost unimpeachable in his testimony is the guy who killed Mr. Serna, a sure way of not hearing both sides of the story.

                The LEO WILL go home tonight and is assured the possibilities of tomorrow having the same outcome, not so much for Mr. Serna…

                (-1) 13 Total Votes - 6 up - 7 down
                • L.A.RamsFan says:

                  One more thing…

                  He shot seven times and your contention that that has anything to do with anything relivant to this converstaion amazes me and probaly gets you a life time membership in the NRA…

                  He’s a trained LEO and he had better have hit Mr. Serna 7 times, if not, then I’d be far more worried about the LEO causing harm to the citizens than Mr. Serna posed, would’nt you?

                  Have you ever shot a semi-automatic pistol Mr. rOy? More precisely the standard issued police semi-automatic 9mm? The FBI says that a novice can fire this type of weapon 3 times in less than a second, what would you think a trained LOE can do? At least twice that? Maybe? 7 rounds is a couple of seconds worth of work at worst with his or her type of training and expertise, right? F***! It don’t matter if Mr. Serna was layin’ on the ground or not! Unless he was right on top of the LEO he didn’t stand a chance standin’, layin’ down or runnin’ his ass off! He was through!

                  (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
                • Rambunctious says:

                  Wow…

                  (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
                • Rambunctious says:

                  Why the anger is it because the lambs are 4-9?

                  (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down

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